Since 1983, the Order of Merit recognition has been given to no more than 2% of UCI social sciences undergraduates who best exemplify a commitment to academic distinction, leadership and service to the school, campus and community. The UCI School of Social Sciences is happy to announce its newest members of this prestigious honor, listed below by name, major and additional honors using the following notations: 

*** Summa Cum Laude (awarded to 1% of graduating seniors)
** Magna Cum Laude (awarded to 3% of graduating seniors)
* Cum Laude (awarded to 8% of graduating seniors)

The symbol ΦΒΚ represents select students invited to membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious honor society in the U.S. recognizing academic excellence and character within the social sciences.


The 2018 honorees will be recognized at an invite-only celebration on June 15. Also receiving special recognition at the ceremony are the following award winners:

sarah mahoneySarah Mahoney (pictured right)
Social Sciences Outstanding Honors Thesis for “The Machiya Boom: Remodeling Identity Through Space”

Anteater activities and accomplishments: Sarah Mahoney is actively involved in Beikoku Shodo Kenkyukai to study and preserve the art of Japanese calligraphy within the Japanese American communities in Southern California. Her artwork has been exhibited in the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, The National Art Center Tokyo, and in the Los Angeles Nisei Week Shodo Exhibit. Her research has focused on traditional wooden homes in Kyoto, Japan called machiya through independent studies and the honors program in the anthropology department. “I am looking at the preservation of machiya through their restoration and reuse,” she says. While at UCI, she received several research grants including the National Geographic Young Explorer grant, UCI UROP Spring grant, and UCI SURP grant. She also received the Ruth Benedict Paper Prize and Most Outstanding Student award within the UCI anthropology department. Other awards include: UCI Chancellor's Award of Distinction, UCI Onnuri Church Scholarship, Gilman International Scholarship, and UCEAP Promise Award. She’s currently listed as an alternate for a research Fulbright in Singapore.

Joyce Nguy
Political Science & Education Sciences
Alice B. Macy Outstanding Undergraduate Paper Award for “Comparing the Effects of Age & Nativity in AAPI Partisanship”

Major milestones and accomplishments: “I really felt like my life began as an undergraduate student. As a first-generation student, I wasn’t aware of the endless possibilities that could be achieved in life,” says Joyce Nguy. “Coming to UCI, I’ve done more than I ever dreamt of doing – I have become a campus tour guide, a residential advisor, and participated in UCDC – and loved every minute of it.” She counts as her biggest accomplishment at UCI a collective of moments seeing the impact her presence has had on the community – through the students and parents on her tours, through her housing residents, and through her high school students in Global Connect. “It has been my greatest honor to expose students to higher education and to mentor them through these crazy undergraduate years. Those I have been lucky to touch are my greatest accomplishment.”

Grace LeekleyGrace D. Leekley
Political Science
Elena B. and William R. Schonfeld Award

How she spends her time:
In addition to her focus on academics (which helped earn her the Adeberhard Memorial Award for Outstanding Freshman at UCI her first year on campus), Grace Leekley has an impressive record of volunteer and community work, including her time spent as a “volunteer princess” in which she visits the homes of children with serious illnesses dressed as their favorite Disney princesses. She has worked as an intern for the Democratic Party of Orange County and as a KNOW Peer Educator as part of UCI’s Campus Assault Resource and Education Program. She’s helped raise $25,000 for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital and worked as a student lobbyist for the UC student association. Beyond this, Leekley has worked as a communications assistant for the California Democratic Party in Sacramento, a site administrator for Study Go! and, as a parking attendant for UCI Guest and Event Services.

Truong Xe
Social Policy and Public Service & Business Economics
Elena B. and William R. Schonfeld Award

His story: Born in Vietnam, Nhat Truong Xe has witnessed his family work to support one another. A double major in social policy and public service and business economics, his interests are in sustainability and public service. He completed an international program on global sustainability in Costa Rica and plans to obtain his graduate degree and establish a non-profit organization. Long term, he hopes to be able to travel internationally and address poverty and sustainability efforts in underserved communities. While a student at UCI, he worked as a sustainable economics intern with The California Endowment – Santa Ana Building Health Communities; ASUCI as the sustainability commissioner; the Lodge Consulting Group as a revenue analyst intern; Pathway Capital Management as a tax intern; and UCI Summer Session as a marketing liaison. He’s taught English to elementary school students in Granada, Nicaragua, and organized a campaign to raise awareness about the U.S. national debt.

Daijanique JosephDaijanique Joseph (pictured right)
Political Science & Social Policy and Public Service
Alumni Academic Excellence Scholarship

Campus involvement and future plans: Daijanique Joseph is wrapping up her honors thesis at UCI on factors that influence African American female college students’ academic persistence. In addition, as a part of her field studies, she also conducted a qualitative research study on preschool students’ motivation to learn. She’s been involved with the Jumpstart at UCI Program for two years where she serves as a corps member in the Santa Ana community to help ensure all students have access to quality early childhood education. She’s been involved with the International Student Excellence Program as a mentor and student coordinator, and she’s been a student leader for first generation students at UCI through the FGFQ Program as well as the DECADE Plus mentorship program. She’s currently involved in ASUCI’s EVP and IVP offices as a legislative affairs federal intern and a food security intern, respectively. “After finishing my degrees at UCI, I plan to take a yearlong gap to work in the field of public policy either at a non-profit organization or through a legislative fellowship program for 11 months,” she says. “During this time, I plan on saving money and focusing on studying for the LSAT so that I can apply to a Dual JD and MPP (Master of Public Policy) degree program.”

Huitzijared Contreras Miguel
International Studies, Political Science, & History
David Rosten International & Community Service Scholarship

Her interests, future plans and what drives her: When she was young, Huitzijared Contreras Miguel became an avid reader and passionate about historical fiction. She loves storytelling and learning about the context of important decision-making in the U.S. That translated into learning about her community as a source of both historical study and political interest. Her experience studying abroad also opened up a new level of opportunities and interest in the international community. She got to visit the International Criminal Court and the European Union which gave her a new perspective toward an interest in law. “I was motivated by my mother’s resiliency, my sister’s dedication, and my father’s hardworking determination throughout my college career,” she says. They taught her how to cultivate passion and persistence for her work even during the long hours. “It was for them that I did all that I could to honor their sacrifices for my education,” she adds. She graduates in June and will be a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students for 24 months and then on to law or Ph.D. graduate school. She also wants to write a book, teach at a university, and become a mom. 

iman siddiqiIman Siddiqi (pictured right)
Political Science & Global Middle East Studies
2018 Lauds & Laurels Outstanding Undergraduate Student & Caesar Sereseres Outstanding Service Award

Her story: It began with a family trip to Turkey. When political science and global Middle East studies major Iman Siddiqi visited the country three years ago, she encountered a number of Syrian refugee families and saw firsthand the impact of that nation’s ongoing civil war. When Siddiqi returned home to Irvine, she couldn’t forget the experience. She enrolled in Arabic classes at UCI, and through online conversations with Syrians, she met many refugees who had been students and scholars but whose academic dreams had been cut short by the conflict. Siddiqi used her new language skills to help them find educational opportunities abroad, but she wanted to do more. As a UCI Dalai Lama Scholar, Siddiqi orchestrated a fundraiser in November that netted nearly $100,000 for refugee scholarships; in January, she organized Refugee Awareness Week on campus through her club, Peaceful Passions. Siddiqi will leave for Oakland the day after commencement (where she’ll be a School of Social Sciences speaker) to participate in a summer-long Arabic language immersion program. After that, she’ll come back to UCI as a law student and continue fighting for refugee rights.

Walter Ramirez
Political Science & Education Sciences
College Transfer Student Scholarship

Accomplishments and activities on campus: One of Walter Ramirez’s biggest accomplishments at UCI was getting an internship at the U.S. Department of Education through the UCDC Summer Internship Program. “As a double major in political science and education sciences, having the opportunity to conduct policy research on Latinos/as in higher education will broaden my understanding of how our political institutions shape policies that affect educational outcomes for Latino/a students,” he says. He’s also currently part of the SAGE Scholars Program and UCDC Summer Internship Program, and he works for the Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP) as a student coordinator helping low-income high school students in Anaheim prepare for the college admissions process. “As a student who grew up in Inglewood, a predominantly African-American and Latino/a community, sharing my experiences with the students I serve – some who come from marginalized communities as well – has enriched my educational experience,” he says. His best memory thus far as an undergrad at UCI was participating in the 2018 ASUCI Students of Color Conference (SOCC). “My experience in this conference broadened my understanding and awareness of intersectional issues such as anti-blackness, colorism, masculinity, and gentrification which affect students of color in higher education,” he says. He also had the opportunity to form new friendships with other students within the UC system and engage in critical discourses regarding the cultural and educational experiences of Central Americans in higher education. “Overall, I grew so much from the exposure and knowledge shared in these spaces which has allowed me to continue to reflect on my own privileges as a male of color as well as the biases prevalent in my community.” 


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